King Lear – O, That Way Madness Lies… whatever.

Most people who love the English language have a similar intensity of feeling for the word ‘whatever’.  They hate it. Not me. Just say it – the initial wuh, the trailing ‘ever’ –it’s a calming exhalation.  Add in the meaning, it’s a zen mantra.  Cutting the mind off from the unproductive routes it was heading down, the regrets, the anger, the ‘what-ifs’ and ‘if onlys’.   It’s an instant perspective shift, disguised as a slacker credo.

King Lear finds his ‘whatever’ in Act 3, with ‘O, that way madness lies’, when he’s trying to work out the reasons for Regan and Goneril’s ‘filial ingratitude’.   How many times have you driven yourself crazy trying to figure out someone else’s motivations?  It’s those pattern seeking minds of ours, with a bit of rationality tucked in at the front.  Keeps tasking us with trying to translate emotional muck into logical bullet points.   Sometimes you just have to raise your shoulders and let them drop: whatever.  I use one expression or the other depending on scale and gravitas:

Wait – did the barista just scowl at me? I’m here every other day and always tip and – Oh, whatever.

Wait – did the supreme court just decide to hand over unprecedented influence to corporations in a blatantly partisan, screw-the-people, why not complete the transition of democracy to a billionaire’s club kind of plutocra  – O, that way madness lies.

Not that you should use these in place of action.  Protest.  Vote.  Seek vengeance on that father-killing uncle. But when you’re focusing on something that’s just stoking destructive behavior – whether it’s staring into a beer and sighing, howling at the weather, or going on your third extended rant of a Facebook status, well then, mes amis, I believe it is time to summon your personal whatever mantra whichever it is.


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